(This post first appeared on Oh my Handmade Goodness where Lucy Thornton guest posts each month).

Social media can help you grow your business, whatever industry you’re in.  It can help:

  • find potential customers
  • build links with existing clients
  • research your target audience
  • network with others in your industry.

Gallery Latitude 50 in Cornwall successfully uses Twitter to engage with customers, promote its brand and organise events.  Kathryn runs the gallery with her husband and mother-in-law, after they opened the venue together.

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I caught up with Kathryn from the Gallery to find out how social media has taken her business from doodles to a work of art.

PBM: Tell us a bit about your business.

Kathryn: We’ve been open for about a year, selling work by contemporary artists and local craftspeople.  Corinne (Kathryn’s mother-in-law) is a French knitwear designer and has chosen beautiful pieces by some of the finest crafters in the region to exhibit.

PBM: How did you market your business before using social media?

Kathryn: We did very little advertising in our first year because of our limited budget, we’ve run a regular listing in a local magazine and a few press releases (thanks to Lucy for the press release template! )

(Aww, thanks – PBM).

We kept the buzz going in the quiet Winter months by teaming up with a local catering company to offer a series of ‘pop-up’ suppers which sold out quickly, mainly through word-of-mouth.

PBM: Why did you begin using social media?

Kathryn: Initially it was curiosity.  Through a local network I received Lucy’s weekly tips on social media (PBM – *waves*) and decided to start tweeting just to see what happened.  Within a few days I was hooked.

I was unprepared for the feeling of community that Twitter creates, especially among local businesses. It’s not competitive in any way – we follow lots of other galleries and cafes and are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

But we’ve also had many follows from artists interested in exhibiting with us which is great too. I realised that we could reach an infinite number of people directly with Twitter and get all our news on events and artists out there myself – all without spending a penny!

PBM: What do you believe are the key benefits of using social media for business?

Kathryn: Twitter is an amazing marketing tool – you can reach people so quickly and effectively. Every time I get a new follower, I check out their profile and usually their website to see if I want to follow them back.

That means that, for even a few seconds, that person/business has my full attention.

I feel that the exposure we get via Twitter is invaluable to our business. We are getting lots of messages from people coming to Cornwall and wanting to visit as well as artists asking to exhibit.

The greatest thing ever is that it costs absolutely nothing and we have complete control over the messages that we get out.

Opportunities are constantly arising, whether from a magazine looking for business people to feature who puts the word out on Twitter, or finding suppliers.

It’s hard to explain until you get started – but when you do, you very quickly realise that it is just a giant network that can be a huge resource for the small business owner.

(And Twitpic is amazing! I published a photo and got 40 views in less than a minute – no old fashioned marketing scheme can do that!!)

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PBM: What impact has your social media activity had on the business?

Kathryn: Business is booming!  In fact, we made more in sales the first three days of April than in the entire month of April 2010.

PBM: What top tips would you give someone considering using social media for their business?

Kathryn:

Get blogging.  Blogging is fantastic.  People love a story, especially if it reveals something about you – the person behind the business. We get so many more visits to our website since blogging and people are staying longer too. Use the tools that are out there.
One word: Twitpic!  People love to look at photos and it is so easy to click on the link in your timeline. Great for sharing news on the spot. A picture is worth a thousand words!

PBM – Check out Twitpic to upload your photos to Twitter.

And do not be afraid to tweet!  My main concern was that my tweets wouldn’t be witty enough. I felt an enormous pressure at first, but the fact is that with only 140 characters you have to get to the point.

PBM: Any other tips you’d like to share with the readers of OMHG?

Kathryn: Only one more – just make sure you set a limit of how long you’re going to spend on Twitter a day – because it can be addictive and before you know it you’re not eating or sleeping… just tweeting!

PBM: Thanks Kathryn.  And thank you for taking the time away from Twitter and Tweeting to talk to Perfect Balance Marketing.